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Full text of "PAM 20-231 Combat In Russian Forests And Swamps"

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73 



HISTORICAL STUDY 



COMBAT IN 

RUSSIAN 
FORESTS 

AND SWAMPS 



DEPOSITORY 



AUG 2 di986 

^I^Wttr ILLINOIS 
y-^^rV'R^ANA-CHAMPAIGN 




UNIVERSITY OF 
II LINOIS LIBRARY 
AT URBANA-CHAMPAIQN 
STACKS 



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*CMH Pub 104-2 



COMBAT IN 
RUSSIAN FORESTS 
AND SWAMPS 



•This publication replaces DA Pam 20-231, July 1951. 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, DC 20402 

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gilized by Gi UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 

AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN 



Facsimile Edition, 1982, 1986 



Center of Military History 
United States Army 
Washington, D.C. 



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PREFACE 



Combat in Russian Forests and Swamps, prepared for the Historical 
Division, EUCOM, by a committee of former German generals and 
general staff officers, deals with the principles of combat in the vast 
woodlands and swamps of European Russia. The main author and all 
other contributors have drawn upon their own extensive experience 
on the Eastern Front and that of their allies, especially the Finns, to 
present the actual lessons learned from the events of the war. When 
the study was translated and prepared for publication, every effort 
was made to retain the point of view, the expressions, and even the 
prejudices of the original authors. 

The reader is reminded that publications in the German Report 
Series were written by Germans from the German point of view. 
Throughout this study, any mention of "normal methods" or standard 
infantry tactics refers to German combat doctrines, and applies to 
units organized and equipped in accordance with German regulations. 
Similarly, the recommendations contained in the final section are 
made against the background of German methods of individual and 
unit training before and during World War II. 




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FOREWORD* 



In conformance with the assignment, this study had to be confined 
to a discussion of tactical principles. The author's lucid and method- 
ical presentation fully corresponds with the experiences reported to 
me by our combat forces during the Russian campaign. 

Apart from tactical principles, however, another problem calls for 
serious consideration: The problem of education and training, of 
teaching self-confidence to young men of military age and of training 
them in the art of improvisation. The need for this training is pointed 
out in the final section of this study. 

Furthermore the presence of vast forest and swamp regions, as 
encountered in eastern Europe, must be taken into consideration in 
the, planning of military operations. Future planners will have to 
make certain that extensive areas of woodlands and swamps are not 
permitted to assume more than tactical importance. The German 
command in Russia was not always successful in this respect, partly 
because it did not see clearly all the elements involved and partly 
because it did not succeed in driving the enemy away from the large 
wooded and swampy areas. On the contrary, there were numerous 
occasions when we deliberately drove the Russians into the swamp, 
assuming that this would prevent them from interfering with the 
further course of operations. That proved to be a fatal error. 

When the enemy has been maneuvered into a large forest and swamp 
region, the area cannot be sealed off by the same methods as a be- 
leaguered fortress. Even a force with great numerical superiority 
will never have enough men available for such a task. It was also 
our experience that Russian forces, once they were driven into wooded 
and swampy areas, were extremely difficult to attack by normal means 
and could hardly ever be completely destroyed. On countless occa- 
sions, we were confronted with the fact that the Russian was able 
to move about in these impenetrable forests and treacherous swamps 
with the certain instinct and sense of security of an animal, whereas 
any soldier reared and trained in a civilized country of the West 
was severely restricted in his movements and thereby placed at a dis- 

♦By General Franz Haider, Chief of the General Staff of the German Army, 1938-1942. 




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FOREWORD 



advantage. There are no effective tactical remedies to compensate 
for this disadvantage. Even the most thorough training applied to 
troops from the West cannot replace the natural instinct peculiar 
to eastern Europeans who were born and raised in a region of forests 
and swamps. In the course of several generations the Soviet policy 
of concentrating masses of workers in large industrial areas will 
certainly have the effect of eliminating these natural instincts, even 
among people of the eastern type, but this is still far in the future. 
Until that time arrives, I am convinced that there is only one really 
effective method to use against the dangers of Russian forests and 
swamps, namely, to plan and conduct operations in a manner which 
will drive the Soviet forces from those areas where — for the time 
being — they enjoy a natural advantage, and force them to give battle 
in open terrain where western soldiers have an even chance in the 
tactical sense and superiority in terms of materiel. It is entirely con- 
ceivable that even the most modern weapon, the atom bomb, might 
serve as an effective instrument in support of such a strategy. 



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CONTENTS 

Page 

FOREWORD v 

SECTION I. MILITARY ASPECTS OF RUSSIAN FORESTS AND SWAMPS.. 1 



II. GENERAL TACTICAL PRINCIPLES 4 

III. COMBAT INTELLIGENCE, RECONNAISSANCE, AND OBSER- 

VATION 10 

IV. TROOP MOVEMENTS 13 

V. DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT 18 

VI. ATTACK 21 

VII. DEFENSE 25 

VIII. RETROGRADE MOVEMENTS 29 

IX. COMBAT UNDER SPECIAL CONDITIONS 32 

X. CONCLUSIONS 36 

REFERENCE MAP Frontispiece 



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SECTION I 



MILITARY ASPECTS OF RUSSIAN FORESTS 
AND SWAMPS 



Aside from their tremendous expanse, the forests and swamps of 
European Russia are of military significance because of their almost 
impassable and practically featureless terrain. Vast areas are left 
entirely in their primeval state and differ distinctly from the culti- 
vated regions of western and central Europe. By far the greatest 
part of the extensive woodlands in European Russia is the result of 
undisturbed natural growth. Modern forestry methods, such as se- 
lective cutting and systematic reforestation, are virtually unknown 
to the Russians. As a result, very little progress has been made, even 
in recent years, in exploiting these forests or in making them more 
accessible, except in the immediate vicinity of major highways. 

Inhabited places are few and far between ; they are located in man- 
made forest clearings and particularly along the river courses. Since 
most Russian rivers flow from north to south or vice versa, the 
natural road network also developed in these directions. Lines of 
communication running east and west are extremely rare. 

During any season of the year the small number and the doubtful 
condition of traffic arteries in Russia was the chief source of anxiety 
to all German field commanders. By far the majority of roads and 
trails proved to have no more than local significance as connections 
between villages, as logging roads, or simply as cleared lanes through 
the forest. They were built accordingly. In critical periods, par- 
ticularly during the muddy season, they proved completely useless. 
They were replaced, once the ground was solidly frozen, by so-called 
winter roads. Wherever bridges had to be crossed, their load capacity 
and their strength against floods or drifting ice had to be estimated 
with extreme caution. 

In view of the fact that the Russian river systems are rarely regu- 
lated, inland water transportation, except on lakes, played only a 
minor role. The so-called Rollbahnen (highways reserved for motor 
vehicles), which were built and maintained on a large scale by German 
construction units using as a foundation such stretches of hard-sur- 



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GERMAN REPORT SERIES 



faced roads as were already available, proved invaluable. Wherever 
they existed, they provided the starting points for tactical operations 
and served as the lifelines of the German supply system. 

The great wooded areas of European Russia actually begin in 
Poland and grow denser as one advances east. The forest of Byalo- 
vizh, 40 miles north of Brest Litovsk, at one time the game preserve 
of the czars and later of the Polish Government, does not quite fit 
into the general picture because, to serve its specific purpose, it has 
been better provided with roads. East of Brest Litovsk, however, 
extend the broad marshes and forests of the Pripyat region. Adjoin- 
ing them, the huge tracts of forest around Gomel, Minsk, Bryansk, 
Borisov, Orsha, and Vyazma dominate the landscape. They are con- 
tinued north of the low ridge of Orsha in the forests of Polotsk and 
Velikiye Luki and in the marshy lowlands along the course of the 
Lovat and the Volkhov, all of which were scenes of bloody fighting 
during World War II. 

It is typical of the large Russian forest areas that nearly all of 
them harbor extensive swamps. Whatever general rules are applied 
in this study to combat in forests or in swamps are therefore inter- 
related in many respects. 

Southern Russia, especially the Ukraine, is nearly devoid of wood- 
lands; some parts are highly cultivated, others consist of steppes. 
Since ancient times Southern Russia has been the favorite scene for 
the operations of large armies. 

Except for the rolling terrain of the Valdai Hills, all wooded areas 
of western Russia extend over flat land. The only mountain forests 
are in the extreme south : in the Yaila mountains on the Crimea, in 
the Carpathians, and in the Caucasus where, in addition, treacherous 
swamps are found in the western foothills. 

Toward the extreme north the woods become thinner and are grad- 
ually replaced by underbrush and swamp vegetation. The landscape 
appears more and more desolate the farther one advances in the direc- 
tion of the White Sea. Economic and military objectives, of necessity, 
take second place to bare survival in the face of the bleakness of nature. 
Here some fishermen, hunters, and lumbermen eke out their precarious 
existence in a constant struggle against the rigors of nature. North of 
the Arctic Circle only Lapp nomads and their herds of reindeer are to 
be found. Farther to the east, beyond the Ural Mountains, tundra 
and taiga (northern coniferous forests) extend over the vast expanse 
of northern Asia. 

The swampy forest areas of European Russia defy any uniform 
description. Conditions vary too greatly, depending on weather, sea- 




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son, and geographic location. The woods and marshes of the Pripyat, 
the only large river which flows from west to east and clearly divides 
western Russia in reality as well as on the map into two parts, offer a 
typical example of the great variety of terrain that may be en- 
countered. Even this region has sandy plains with' high forests, 
cultivated farm land and pastures, localities with a comparatively 
dense population, river branches that have been converted into canals, 
and paved roads on causeways. But its predominant features are 
extensive swamp areas with luxuriant weed-covered moors, countless 
ponds and lakes full of sedge islands and bordered by treacherous, 
meadow-like ground, a type of terrain which is definitely impassable 
except during winter. There are birch and alder forests which, ac- 
cording to the season of the year, may have a dry and firm ground 
surface or may turn out to be a bottomless morass. A constantly 
changing maze of floodwater streams and tributaries makes any troop 
movement off the paved roads a dangerous undertaking. 

Despite all these difficulties the Pripyat marshes, taken as a whole, 
are considerably more accessible and better adapted to military use 
than other Russian forest areas. During World War II, therefore, 
even this region, which had been viewed with apprehension by many 
military men, became the scene of tactical movements and engage- 
ments in which the principal role, to be sure, fell to the infantry and 
the horse cavalry. 

In southern Russia there are no large and continuous swamp regions 
like that of the Pripyat river system. The only swampy areas that 
might be of tactical importance are the marshy tracts in the partly 
wooded lowlands along the Dnepr River and the treeless lagoons near 
the mouths of the Kuban, the Don, the Terek, and in the lower course 
of the Volga. 

Finally, in considering the military peculiarities of Russian forests 
and swamps, one must refer to the great variations in climate that 
are encountered in the vast expanse between the Black Sea and the 
Arctic Ocean. Over any extended period of time the physical con- 
stitution of the average European is unable to stand the humid, sultry 
weather in the marshy regions of the south, the icy dampness of the 
ground in the forests of central and northern Russia, or the sudden 
storms and rapid changes in temperature in all parts of the country. 
Contaminated drinking water, mosquitoes and other harmful insects, 
extremely cold weather, and other unusual natural phenomena caused 
sicknesses of many kinds. The casualties resulting from frostbite, 
rheumatic fever, intestinal disease, malaria, and swamp fever equalled, 
in many instances, the number of men killed or wounded in combat. 



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SECTION II 
GENERAL TACTICAL PRINCIPLES 



Command 



Combat in forests and swamps requires firm, farsighted, energetic 
leadership by commanders who are able to cope with the peculiarities 
of this type of warfare and avoid unnecessary crises and reverses. 
During initial engagements uncertainty about the enemy and terrain 
is far greater than in the open. Unpleasant surprises may occur at 
any moment — in dense forests because of lack of observation and in 
swampy areas because of the difficulty in obtaining an accurate terrain 
estimate. In such situations, ignorance on the part of the staffs, 
defective organization, or lack of advance planning will have an 
immediate effect on the physical condition and the morale of the troops 
and may cause a loss of human lives which could have been avoided. 

In forest fighting, commanders easily lose control over their troops. 
In the forward area their direct influence is confined to the men in their 
immediate vicinity. Limited observation, the intensified noise of 
combat, and the excitement created by fighting at close quarters make 
it difficult to distinguish between friend and foe, increase the danger of 
overestimating purely local events, and the danger of panic is thereby 
aggravated. Combat of this type will always prove to be a heavy 
strain on troops. Units which have been engaged in serious forest 
fighting frequently are unfit for action for a considerable time there- 
after. Any unit that no longer is able to provide adequate reserves for 
its combat missions should be temporarily relieved or rehabilitated 
before it is completely battle-worn. 

The general principles of tactics in open terrain — the teamwork of 
mutually supporting arms and services, culminating in a main effort at 
the decisive point or points — also apply to combat in large forest and 
swamp areas. Only the outward forms are changed insofar as they 
must be adapted to the conditions created by nature, specifically to the 
lack of observation and the absence of suitable roads. The objectives 
remain the same. 

The place of the small unit commander is within view or earshot of 
his men, where he is able to exercise direct control and take charge of 
critical situations. Command posts of larger units are protected by 
the forest and rarely exposed to enemy reconnaissance. Their loca- 
tions, therefore, are selected less for reasons of concealment than for 

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good communications with friendly troops. Approaches must be 
marked by unmistakable day and night road signs to aid messengers 
and subordinate commanders in finding their way. 

Large wooded areas provide an abundance of concealment for move- 
ment and troop concentrations, even against an enemy with superior 
air forces. Furthermore, they offer distinct advantages in the conduct 
of delaying actions, blocking maneuvers, and diversionary attacks. 
They are not, however, suitable as a battleground for major decisions. 
This is true not only for large forests but also applies in even greater 
degree to extensive swamp areas. The attacker, if at all possible, must 
therefore seek to avoid large, continuous forests and swamps by pass- 
ing them at both flanks, particularly with mechanized and motorized 
units. Only if the enemy is firmly entrenched in such areas and ap- 
pears determined to fight, despite the danger of being outflanked and 
enveloped, must he be attacked or at least effectively contained. 
Otherwise, the successful conduct of subsequent operations might be 
jeopardized. 

In the defense, on the other hand, or for the purpose of blocking the 
enemy's maneuver, it may be advisable to exploit extensive forest and 
swamp areas, even by occupying them with one's own forces. This 
will seriously interfere with the adversary's plans, force him to use his 
troops on time-consuming missions, slow down his movements, and 
hamper his supply operations. Moreover, forests and swamps often 
provide favorable opportunities for raids and attacks on the aggres- 
sor's flanks and rear. 

The inhabitants of the eastern European forest and swamp areas 
are generally agreed — and this is borne out by the German experi- 
ences of World War II— rthat midwinter is the most suitable season 
for offensive operations in that type of terrain. When the streams, 
lakes, and marshes are frozen, so that wide stretches off the roads 
become passable, the so-called winter roads are established. Running 
across the frozen surface of open moors and swampy tracts of wood- 
land, such winter roads constitute the natural lines of communication 
during the long Russian winter and thus make it possible to utilize 
the terrain for military purposes. The proper equipment must, of 
course, be available to operate under such circumstances. 

Since the many items of technical equipment necessary for living 
and fighting in almost inaccessible forest and swamp areas cannot be 
available everywhere at the right time and in sufficient quantity, com- 
manders of all echelons must apply themselves to the art of improvisa- 
tion. The Russians proved to be past masters of that art and obtained 




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GERMAN REPORT SfRfES 



amazing results by using the most primitive expedients, particularly 
by the ruthless employment of civilians present in such areas. 

As a means of orientation in the interior of extensive Russian 
forests and swamps, maps alone are inadequate and unreliable. The 
picture presented by the landscape is subject to constant change 
brought about by natural growth and the varying effects of water in 
every form, and every commander should use his maps only with the 
greatest caution. Any map information must be supplemented by 
aerial photographs and by interrogation of local inhabitants, as well 
as by the evaluation of captured documents. Foreign place names 
may have to be overprinted in one's own alphabet. A uniform map 
with a standard grid system is an indispensable prerequisite for the 
proper coordination of all arms. 

In such areas, more than in any other type of terrain, commanders 
must be seriously concerned about providing adequate medical and 
sanitary facilities and individual equipment in order to make life 
bearable under the most adverse conditions. 

The conduct of operations in forests and swamps requires the most 
meticulous preparation in every respect. This is true not only for 
reconnaissance and security but also for the composition and commit- 
ment of units, their equipment, the organization of communication 
and command channels, the training of the various arms, and last but 
not least for the utilization of local resources. 

Operations in forests and swamps are further characterized by the 
methodical execution of all measures. This, of necessity, involves a 
loss of time and requires an increased number of service troops. In 
many respect it constitutes a departure from the conventional German 
principles of combat in open terrain, which emphasize initiative and 
independent action on the part of all command echelons. 



The task of conducting a successful campaign against a tough and 
primitive opponent who is able to take advantage of the peculiar con- 
ditions of forests and" swamps calls for well-trained troops of high 
morale and unusual physical endurance. It is in that type of terrain 
that the infantry regains its time-honored reputation as the "Queen 
of Battle." Here the individual fighting man assumes even greater 
importance than during combat in open terrain. Fighting at close 
quarters plays a major role and numerical superiority is less signifi- 
cant than personal courage. Light and heavy infantry weapons, 
sub-machine-guns, machine pistols, hand grenades, bayonets, the long 



Arms and Services 




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hunting knife, and flame throwers are the most suitable weapons for 
this type of combat. 

The Russian campaign demonstrated that the cavalry, regarded as 

obsolete in central and western Europe, still had many tasks to per- 
form. It was successfully employed in envelopments and flank attacks, 
pursuits and long-range missions — admittedly not in the sense of the 
cavalry of former times but rather as a highly mobile mounted in- 
fantry with great powers of endurance. Also, the man on horseback 
was often indispensable in maintaining liaison and carrying messages. 

Composition and employment of the artillery must be adapted to 
the peculiarities of woods and swamps. Lack of observation, 
especially from the flanks, and unusual difficulties in selecting suitable 
positions are the main handicaps of artillery commitment in this type 
of terrain. In the dense forests of Russia it was never easy to identify 
even the foremost enemy line. Unobserved fire on rear area targets 
proved even more uncertain. Finally, the artillery faced a downright 
impossible task whenever the front line fluctuated in attacks and 
counterattacks and when observation, even at close range, failed to 
provide a reliable picture. 

In forest fighting the psychological effect of artillery fire is greatly 
amplified while that of small arms fire is generally reduced. Pre- 
pared concentrations, if laid down to block the enemy's main route of 
approach, can be highly effective. Only in exceptional cases, however, 
is mass employment of artillery possible in direct support of attacking 
or defending forces. The most suitable solution, in the German ex- 
perience, was to attach one artillery battalion to one infantry regiment. 
Frequently a further subdivision was necessary and individual bat- 
teries were attached to infantry battalions. Thus, during combat in 
woods and swamps the artillery found its main function in the close 
support of front-line infantry. 

The number of forward observers equipped with voice-radio sets 
can never be too large ; several are necessary to direct the fire of each 
battery. 

Massed fire on important targets must be planned with extraordinary 
care. Systematic area fire from map data has little promise of success 
and, in most instances, merely constitutes a waste of ammunition. In 
swamp areas, furthermore, a considerable part of the fragmentation 
effect is lost unless time fuzes are available. 

The artillery must use high angle fire in direct support, especially 
in tall forests, once the advancing infantry is separated from the enemy 
by only a few hand grenade throws. The use of infantry heavy 
weapons, particularly mortars, is subject to similar principles. 



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In densely overgrown terrain, rocket launchers have a considerable 
effect on morale, particularly at night. Even if little accuracy can be 
achieved, the enemy frequently is forced to evacuate because of grass 
and brush fires started in the impact area. 

Engineer troops are called upon for a great variety of tasks in 
swampy and wooded terrain. A large number of well-equipped engi- 
neer detachments must be available not only for combat missions and 
construction of obstacles but also for mine laying and mine detecting, 
clearing roads and fire lanes, constructing bridges, corduroy roads, and 
fascine mats, and for building observation towers and abatis. Par- 
ticularly great during the entire German campaign in Russia was the 
need for bridge and road construction units. Native labor proved to 
be valuable because the Russian peasant and inhabitant of forest 
regions has considerable experience in wood construction and is not 
dependent on the use of iron and steel. 

German experiences demonstrated that even armored units can be 
employed in the forests of Eastern Europe, particularly in those 
areas that have a fairly adequate road net and are not too densely over- 
grown. Despite all technical advances, however, the difficulties im- 
posed by the peculiarities of terrain remain enormous. They are 
further aggravated by greater density of tree growth and deep snow 
and, during the muddy season or after extensive rainfall, become 
insurmountable in swamp areas. In continuous forests and swamps, 
therefore, the employment of entire mechanized or motorized divisions 
should be avoided. If this is impossible, the tanks should be held in 
reserve and only motorized infantry and combat engineers should be 
committed at first. Utilizing the existing road net and considerably 
echeloned in depth, the armor should then move up on a narrow 
frontage. Much greater opportunities present themselves for the 
employment of individual tanks, sometimes in small groups up to 
platoon strength, and of assault guns and tank destroyers. Of course, 
they too are hampered by difficulties of terrain and lack of observation. 
So long as the -ground is reasonably firm, however, their commitment 
appears justified since the infantry cannot expect too much support 
from any of the other arms. 

In signal communications the greatest emphasis must be placed on 
the use of radio. The wild, uncultivated forests of European Russia 
present unusual obstacles to the construction and maintenance of tele- 
phone lines. Radio, therefore, is the proper means of communication 
not only for higher echelons but particularly for front-line units. 
Blinker communications are suitable in the more open marshes but 



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not in dense forests. Other visual signals, as well as messenger dogs, 
may be used over short distances and, at times, it may be necessary to 
resort to relay systems of mounted messengers and runners. 

Tactical air support in forest areas is subject to restrictions similar 
to those present in the employment of artillery. Lack of observation 
and the absence of distinct features in the terrain such as crossroads, 
railroad tracks, and inhabited places, often lead to serious errors in 
the commitment of planes. Dive bomber attacks in forest areas have 
a strong psychological effect. The screaming of diving planes, the 
detonation of bombs, and the crashing of falling trees wreak havoc 
on the nerves of all but the most seasoned troops. On the other hand, 
the employment of dive bombers requires the most methodical co- 
ordination, perfect timing, and the greatest possible accuracy in 
the designation of targets, all of which can be achieved only under 
the most favorable conditions. Although less effective in close sup- 
port of forest fighting than under ordinary circumstances, the air 
force can render invaluable assistance to ground forces engaged in that 
type of combat. It is capable of keeping vast combat areas under 
constant surveillance and of providing through aerial photography 
a prompt and reliable supplement to ground reconnaisance. 

In support of an advance over terrain that offers practically no 
ground observation, air reconnaissance has the additional task of 
reporting the location of forward elements and of indicating points 
where major road congestions have occurred. Equipped with infra- 
red devices, air observers are able to produce usable photographs at 
any time of the day or night, in fog, or in rain. 

Heavy supply vehicles, whether motorized or horse-drawn, are a 
cumbersome hindrance in any operation in woods and swamps. The 
troops must be forced to limit themselves to the few items absolutely 
essential for combat and to leave behind everything that is not of vital 
importance. At the outbreak of the Russian campaign in 1941 the 
German divisions were equipped with native horse carts, the so-called 
Panje wagons, drawn by small but extremely hardy native horses. 
Another organizational expedient typical of the campaign in Russia 
was the formation of light infantry divisions after the Germans dis- 
covered that their mountain divisions were the most effective type of 
unit for sustained combat in forests and swamps. 



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SECTION III 



COMBAT INTELLIGENCE, RECONNAISSANCE, AND 

OBSERVATION 



When an attacking force approaches a large forest and swamp 
area it is usually provided with intelligence estimates indicating 
whether or not the area is occupied by strong enemy forces. But 
since intelligence estimates furnished by higher headquarters cannot 
always provide conclusive data, it is the responsibility of every com- 
mander to obtain more specific information about the enemy and 
terrain in his zone of advance. This is accomplished by distant, 
close, and battle reconnaissance through the combined efforts of all 
arms. If distant reconnaissance missions fail to obtain adequate 
results, improper employment of forces can hardly be avoided. 
Failure to carry out adequate close and battle reconnaissance may 
involve the danger of falling into an ambush or encountering un- 
expected enemy resistance. This applies in an immeasurably higher 
degree to wooded and marshy areas than to any other type of terrain. 

All items of information concerning the road net in the area of 
advance must be entered on road maps which are distributed before 
going into action. Numbers or names must be assigned to all roads 
and prominent terrain features that are not so marked on the maps. 
Such designations proved invaluable in simplifying orientation and 
communications in the Eastern Campaign. 

At the beginning of the Russian campaign German panzer di- 
visions still had air squadrons attached for close support and ob- 
servation. Because of excellent Russian camouflage, however, air 
reconnaissance over vast forest regions was at first not too effective. 
Somewhat better results were achieved over large swamp areas. In 
time and after experience German air observers realized that the 
most inconspicuous signs were likely to offer valuable information. 
For example, the presence of horses at rest, stacks of straw and hay 
that should long have been stored, or fresh tracks in the mud led 
to important conclusions. These air reconnaissance activities were 
mainly concentrated on the route of advance with special emphasis 
on detecting enemy battery positions and tank movements. In ad- 
dition, each squadron had to protect the advancing columns of the 
panzer division to which it was attached. The planes were also used 



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for artillery observation and at times were the only means of directing 
effective counterbattery fire. Flight for reconnaissance was usually 
carried out at low altitude, a most suitable technique over dense forests 
and overgrown swamps since the enemy caught no more than a 
glimpse of the aircraft as it passed overhead. 

Apart from air reconnaissance and aerial photography, strong 
combat patrols are still the primary means of obtaining vital informa- 
tion. Wherever the terrain is suitable and affords adequate observa- 
tion, single tanks or armored reconnaissance cars may be employed, 
provided they can be accompanied by security and mine-detecting 
squads. 

In conjunction with continuous reconnaissance to the front the 
security of both flanks must be assured. Any commander who neglects 
to provide for all around security, particularly in forests and swamps, 
has but himself to blame if his troops sustain heavy casualties from 
enemy surprise attacks or are caught in a prepared ambush which 
was not recognized in time. The more difficult the terrain, the greater 
is the need for continuous and intensive reconnaissance. In con- 
trast to operations in open terrain, reconnaissance and security patrols 
must be held close to the main force. Advancing by bounds, they 
must work their way through forest and swamp and must never lose 
contact with their units. Prearranged signals, such as rockets, signal 
flares, warning shots, and colored smoke, are suitable means of com- 
munication even in woods with dense underbrush. Whenever possible, 
observation posts should be established on high ground, in treetops 
hunting lookouts, and observation towers. Climbing irons and rope 
are indispensable items of equipment in terrain of this type. 

Similar principles apply to a defensive situation in forests and 
swamps. Forward of the main line of resistance the defender must 
attempt to establish a closely knit security and reconnaissance net- 
work, a task that is greatly facilitated since the forces are familiar 
with the terrain. Reconnaissance units in contact with the enemy 
have the additional mission of deceiving the attacker as long as pos- 
sible as to the actual location of the main line of resistance. 

In exceptional cases, for instance when contact with the enemy has 
been frequently broken or lost altogether, the employment of so-called 
raiding detachments may become necessary. These are long-range 
combat patrols with the mission of collecting specific information, 
harassing the enemy rear area, and creating unrest behind the enemy 
lines. Their success will depend entirely on the proper selection of 
personnel, notably the leader, and on the suitability of their equip- 



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ment. They must be led by a man of unusual abilities who combines 
the best qualities of a trained soldier with the natural instincts of 

an experienced hunter. Every man in the patrol should carry his 
own rations, weapons, protection against inclement weather, and any 
items that might be needed to care for the wounded. 

On missions of this type vehicles are likely to be a hindrance rather 
than a help. During the Russian winter, however, small boat-type 
Finnish sleds, called akjas, proved very useful for transporting 
weapons, ammunition, equipment, and occasionally for evacuating 
casualties. These sleds could be drawn by one man and, in the far 
northern regions, were pulled through the most difficult terrain by 
reindeer. At times when the ground was fairly solid, the raiding 
detachments were furnished small two-wheeled carts drawn by hand 
or by native horses. 




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SECTION IV 
TROOP MOVEMENTS 



An advance through a large forest region traversed by several hard- 
surfaced roads will generally follow the same principles that are 
observed in any other type of terrain, except that the units involved are 
echeloned in greater depth than usual. Strong advance guards must 
push well ahead of the main body. Moving along the roads, they 
should advance through the forest and swamp areas as quickly as 
possible with the primary objective of gaining open terrain and secur- 
ing it for succeeding elements. These advance guards must be strong 
enough to overcome the resistance of small enemy forces in the woods 
and, in cooperation with friendly air units, must be able to hold newly 
gained open terrain until reinforcements arrive. 

During the German campaign in Russia road conditions permitting 
such an advance proved to be the exception rather than the rule. Road 
nets, or what appeared as such on the map, consisted mainly of unim- 
proved, sandy, or swampy country roads, frequently no more than 
beaten tracks through the wilderness. In these circumstances the ad- 
vance of large units had to be carefully planned and organized in every 
detail. For example, with no more than one through road available, 
as was often the case, the movement of a division would be carried out 
as follows : 

Each element of the advancing column was, as a rule, preceded by its 
own advance guard. This unit, in addition to its usual tactical func- 
tions, had to report the presence of mines and roadblocks along the 
route of advance and to indicate the time required for their removal. 
It was also responsible for reconnoitering all possible detours around 
obstructed or impassable stretches of the road. 

The order of march, especially with respect to forward components 
of the column, had to be so prescribed as to eliminate any need for 
subsequent changes. On narrow roads it. proved virtually impossible 
to move any unit from the rear of the column to the front without 
causing considerable difficulties. 

All advance detachments were accompanied by engineer details 
which repaired the worst stretches of the road and placed road and 
terrain markers to aid in the orientation of previously issued road 
maps. At an early stage of the movement, construction units were 
put to work along the entire route of advance. When movement was 



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interrupted by rest periods or at night, these units performed road 
maintenance, constructed bj'passes, and built bridges and corduroy 
roads. In addition, a highly mobile engineer unit was held in reserve 
to cope with special emergencies. 

Traffic control also required careful organization and more person- 
nel than in other types of terrain. The traffic control officer was re- 
sponsible for the even and uninterrupted flow of the movement. In 
order to enforce strict traffic discipline and to prevent any column or 
single vehicle from moving in the opposite direction, he was necessarily 
given special authority within the scope of his assignment. Even 
officers of higher rank had to follow his instructions. 

On many occasions the poor condition of the only available route of 
advance made it necessary to provide towing facilities at particularly 
difficult points along the road. The regulation of supply operations so 
as to keep them from interfering with troop movements had to be 
planned in every detail. One item of major importance in moving 
through Russian forests and swamps was the procurement and trans- 
portation of safe drinking water. 

Along the route of advance effective antiaircraft protection and ade- 
quate telephone communications had to be provided, the latter con- 
nected with branch lines, traffic control, and towing details. 

Immediate local security measures had to be taken by every unit 
during rest periods or extended halts in the forest. At night it was 
found advisable to provide for all around defense by forming concen- 
tric security and defense belts, around individual elements of the 
column. 

In any advancing column the location of the commander is of great 
importance. This is particularly true of movements through forests 
and swamps which, far from being mere road marches, might at any 
time turn into meeting engagements. In the German experience the 
best location for the division commander in a movement through 
wooded and swampy terrain was with the reconnaissance battalion or, 
when such a battalion was not organic, with the foremost elements of 
the combat team. In the case of two combat teams the commander 
placed himself with the one that, according to the situation, was of 
greater importance. He had his own radio with him and was usually 
accompanied by the combat team commander. The forward echelon 
of the division staff was under the command of the operations officer. 
It did not move with the column but was established in a suitable 
location along the route of march. It included the divisional radio 
communications center, where all radio messages were received, in- 
cluding those from aircraft reporting on the progress of the column. 




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The operations officer transmitted all important information to the 
division commander on a radio frequency reserved for that purpose. 
Thus, the division commander had the complete picture not only of the 
situation at the head of the column where he himself was located, but 
also of anything that occurred behind him. 

Even the most careful regulation and supervision of movements 
through difficult terrain cannot altogether prevent traffic congestions 
if the troops fail to observe proper march discipline. Since strict 
central control is an absolute necessity, all movement through forests 
and swamps follow a more rigid pattern than those in open terrain and 
are generally executed at a lower rate of speed. Whenever German 
units attempted to penetrate large, continuous forest and swamp areas 
recklessly and without adequate preparation they were doomed to 
failure. The proper procedure, whenever contact with strong enemy 
elements in forests appeared probable, proved to be an advance by 
bounds. This procedure assured firm control of the troops at all times. 
Even in approaching a large forest area the Germans often used the 
same procedure, depending, of course, on what information had been 
obtained about the enemy situation. 

When the leading echelons of the column were about to enter the 
woods, the commander had to decide whether his force should deploy 
or continue to advance in column. His dispositions for this phase 
depended to a high degree on the adaptability of his troops to the dif- 
ficulties of the terrain. 

Densely overgrown and swampy areas always present considerable 
problems of orientation. Under the conditions existing in Russian 
forests and swamps it was found to be most important that every 
officer and man be able to orient himself on the terrain. Otherwise, 
any action was likely to end in confusion with the troops losing their 
bearings, deviating from their march objective, and eventually firing 
on friendly forces. In many situations the compass proved the only 
means of orientation, but it was always difficult to determine the exact 
distance from the starting point because of the many detours involved 
in an advance through terrain of that type. Serious mistakes could 
be prevented only after considerable experience had been gained by 
officers and men alike. 

To aid succeeding units in finding their way, directions were indi- 
cated by the use of marking tape, luminous paint, and tree and road 
markers. To provide orientation at night, vertical searchlight beams 
and the firing of tracer ammunition proved satisfactory. 

Undoubtedly, the average European does not possess a well-devel- 
oped sense of direction. Nor is he capable of moving swiftly and 




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noiselessly through the compact wilderness of primeval forests. The 
inhabitants of the Russian and Finnish forest regions, on the other 
hand, have a native instinct for the lay of the land and an astounding 
ability for self-orientation. Therefore, the German forces in Russia 
often found it advisable to use intelligent local inhabitants under close 
supervision as guides for marching columns and even for leading 
elements in the attack. 

Columns equipped with horse-drawn vehicles had to be instructed 
to leave behind all baggage, equipment, and supplies that were not 
absolutely essential. For this purpose, vehicle collection points were 
established, and the horse teams which thereby became available could 
then be employed as pack animals, for the transportation of fascine 
mats, or as additional teams for vehicles that had to be taken along. 
If suitable pack saddles had not been procured beforehand, they had 
to be improvised. Any vehicle that broke down and obstructed the 
road was blasted out of the way without hesitation. 

Marches of armored or motorized columns through forests and 
swamps called for the most careful preparation. All elements, not 
only the divisional units, had to proceed in close formation under strict 
observance of road space and rate of march. Thus, as a rule, corps 
headquarters did not order its nondivisional units to move forward 
until the last elements of the division had cleared a certain phase line. 
Constant air observation of such movements was of the greatest im- 
portance. Air observers reported the location of traffic congestions or 
unusually prolonged halts, as well as the phase lines crossed by the 
various units and the over-all progress of the movement. 

In any daylight advance of armored or motorized columns through 
the Russian forests and swamps, effective air cover was an absolute 
necessity. Under attack from the air, armored or motorized units 
were unable to disperse, or even to move 1 inch off the narrow roads, 
and were therefore infinitely more vulnerable than in any other terrain 
under similar tactical conditions. To carry out any large-scale move- 
ment of such units at night, however, proved to be impossible. 

As the Russian roads deteriorated, wheeled motor vehicles were the 
first to become useless, especially the personnel carriers of armored 
and motorized units. Unaccustomed to long foot marches, the armored 
infantry, laboring through swamps, mud, and snow with its heavy 
weapons and all its abundant equipment, could not stand up under 
the considerable strain. Foot ailments and similar causes were soon 
responsible for a large number of casualties. 

As a result of these experiences wheeled vehicles were eventually 
dispensed with and each company of armored infantry was issued 




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two or three track-laying vehicles for the transportation of heavy 
weapons, ammunition, and rations. Where such a change-over was 
impossible, as in the case of radio cars, track-laying prime movers 
were employed to tow several wheeled vehicles at a time. As a rule 
this was done at the expense of units normally equipped with track- 
laying vehicles, such as artillery, antitank, and flak. 




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SECTION V 
DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT 



Generally, the development of a column in wooded terrain in Russia 
became necessary as the troops approached close contact with the 
enemy. Individual units continued to advance in a broad formation 
behind a screen of strong reconnaissance forces and with adequate 
flank protection. Frontage and depth of the formation depended 
largely on the type of terrain to be crossed, but the primary considera- 
tion was always the possibility of exercising effective control over all 
elements of the command. Furthermore, every unit had to be ready 
to meet the enemy at any moment and therefore had to adopt the 
formation most suitable for close combat under the prevailing terrain 
conditions. 

Equipped with close combat weapons, automatic rifles, and hand 
axes, the advance guard followed the reconnaissance force. Several 
heavy weapons were held ready for action. The rifle companies, in 
wedge formation and advancing by bounds, followed the advance 
guard at a distance. Battalion reserves and additional heavy weapons 
were brought up close behind the main body. 

If the terrain was densely overgrown or if darkness or fog made it 
difficult to maintain contact, the advance of each separate column was 
controlled by so-called center guide lines and phase lines. A center 
guide line is a prescribed line along which the center of a unit is 
ordered to advance. In the absence of visible reference points in the 
terrain, the compass is usually the only reliable means of maintaining 
direction. Phase lines run perpendicular to the direction of march 
and divide the zone of advance into several parts. Conspicuous ter- 
rain features, such as fire breaks, trails, clearings, streams, peat banks, 
and villages or several individual houses, were usually designated as 
phase lines. They were entered on maps or aerial photographs and 
announced to the troops either verbally or by the distribution of 
sketches. Each advancing unit had instructions to halt as soon as its 
leading elements reached the next phase line and to establish contact 
with the units on its left and right. This procedure enabled the 
leading elements of all units to keep abreast and assured the mainte- 
nance of order and contact in the advance, even over difficult terrain. 
If there were no conspicuous features that could be indicated on the 



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map or identified in the terrain, the halts were arranged according to 
a time schedule. During darkness it was sometimes possible to estab : 
lish contact with adjacent units by the use of blinker lights shielded 
from the enemy. 

Of course, this method of advance, interrupted as it is by scheduled 
halts, will slow down the f orward movement of the entire force. But 
even at the risk of losing time, it is far better to maintain full control 
and to conserve the strength of the troops than to expose entire units 
to the danger of losing contact and straying from their route of 
advance with all the serious consequences involved. 

In many situations during the German campaign in Russia, the very 
nature of the forests and swamps precluded the possibility of deploy- 
ment and development prior to close contact with the enemy. As far 
back as the old Russian border no more than one route was usually 
available for the approach march of any German unit. On a few oc- 
casions the unusual width of the zone of advance assigned to a divi- 
sion ofTered some opportunity for deployment, although that was 
hardly deployment in the ordinary sense of the term. It took the 
form merely of another march unit, normally organized as a combat 
team, following an alternate route, far separated from and at best in 
loose contact with the main force. But even that form of deployment 
was largely an involuntary measure adopted to counter an enemy 
attack from an unexpected direction. 

Contact with the enemy was often established under the following 
circumstances: The Russians were dug in around a village, at the 
edge of a forest, in a large clearing, or in any other strip of solid 
ground. Their position was hastily fortified and usually protected 
by mines. Well deployed in width, they were able to concentrate 
considerable fire power on the narrow exist through which the Germans 
were expected to emerge. The attacker, after trying by reconnais- 
sance and observation to obtain a clear picture of the enemy situation, 
usually had to fight his way from the narrow approaches into the 
open spaces where he could develop his forces. Facing the enemy 
on a narrow road, the German commander could apply but a small 
portion of his fire power and was unable to make effective use of his 
heavy weapons. He had to develop his forces toward both flanks in 
a desperate struggle through the swampy terrain, trying to form a 
small bridgehead on firm ground and to gain sufficient space for the 
employment of his heavy weapons, tanks, and rocket launchers. 
Rocket launchers particularly proved to be most suitable for this type 
of combat. Frequently, the defender also had no more than one nar- 




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row route to the rear through the woods and swamps. If that road 
could be taken under effective artillery fire, it was sometimes possible 
to block the route of withdrawal and to capture the entire enemy 
force. 

On many occasions, however, when the Germans faced a strong 
Russian force supported by accurate artillery fire, any development 
from the narrow route of advance proved to be impossible. Then the 
German commander had to resort to the time-consuming procedure of 
rerouting his entire unit in order to launch an attack from a different 
direction. Even without interference from the enemy, reversing an 
entire column on a narrow, swampy road or on a corduroy road, where 
the slightest departure from the right-of-way would mean sinking into 
the mud, was certain to involve tremendous difficulties. 




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SECTION VI 
ATTACK 



The attacker usually seeks to capture small woods by enveloping 
action, making certain that any protruding salients are attacked and 
occupied in the course of the envelopment. The artillery blinds the 
enemy's observation by smoke and neutralizes the hostile weapons 
capable of delivering flanking fire against the attack. 

If wooded areas of moderate depth are to be crossed, special care 
must be taken to prevent any substantial body of troops from advanc- 
ing beyond the far edge of the woods without adequate fire support. 
In such situations there is always the danger of running into a coun- 
terattack by enemy tanks. 

Any offensive action in large forest regions or in swamp areas with- 
out adequate observation calls for a considerable expenditure of time 
and the most painstaking preparations. This seemingly obvious re- 
quirement cannot be overemphasized and should be fully understood 
by all officers and noncommissioned officers. Swift and bold action and 
close-range assaults are indicated only in the case of a meeting engage- 
ment or for the elimination of minor enemy pockets. In all other in- 
stances the attack must be carefully planned and developed. Much 
time and effort will be saved if the troops are deployed in proper 
formation and have gained the necessary width and depth during the 
advance. All such preparations must be made in strict conformity 
with the general plan of attack, and the expected location of main 
efforts must be taken into consideration. Maps alone are of limited 
value for this purpose, and every commander will first have to conduct 
a thorough reconnaissance on the ground. 

Quick success may sometimes be achieved by an advance and break- 
through off the main road, but only if the enemy has committed the 
obvious error of neglecting to secure the intermediate terrain. 

Under the conditions peculiar to combat in forests and swamps the 
selection of objectives is always one of the most difficult tasks. As 
a rule, commanders have a tendency to assign objectives as distant as 
possible. German experience has shown, however, that units engaged 
in prolonged forest fighting soon become intermingled, are then ex- 
tremely difficult to control, and lose much of their striking power. 
Assigning too distant an objective may have the effect of jeopardiz- 

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ing, if not completely precluding, any chance of success. Flank 
threats and the disruption of communications between the attacking 
elements and their supporting heavy weapons and artillery are some 
of the immediate consequences. Assigning too close an objective, 
on the other hand, prevents the full exploitation of gains made in the 
attack. 

It is clear that this problem cannot be solved by any rule of uniform 
applicability. In view of the difficulties of observation and orienta- 
tion in large forest and swamp areas, the troops need distinct terrain 
features which are easily recognizable as objectives, such as rivers 
and streams, ridges, clearings, crosscuts, trails, or the edge of swamps. 
Generally, if only for reasons of proper control and cohesion within 
the units, major objectives in forests and swamps will be selected at 
closer range than in open terrain. Intermediate objectives in the form 
of successive phase lines are required particularly in dense woods. 

The attack itself will not be carried out by a single assault wave 
of great width and density, but rather by separate assault detachments 
and assault columns which must be properly organized and equipped. 
Success will be assured not by the number of men but by the combined 
effect of all arms and by the constantly renewed cooperation of all 
elements participating in the attack. The composition of these assault 
detachments cannot be determined by any standard rule. Decisive 
factors, apart from the enemy situation, will be the density of trees 
and undergrowth and the general passability of the terrain. 

The Germans established special antitank teams composed of 
infantry, antitank, and combat engineer units attached to the leading 
elements. They were used for close-range antitank combat and 
proved extremely valuable in the Russian forests where the dense 
vegetation facilitated their unobserved approach. Generally, these 
teams advanced on foot with the infantry, carried their antitank 
weapons, such as Molotov cocktails, demolition charges, or antitank 
rocket launchers, and were equal to any tank attacking without 
infantry support. 

Even in forests and swamps commanders should strive to use 
artillery and air support under principles similar to those for combat 
in open terrain. Since observed fire in densely overgrown areas is 
often impossible, it follows that such support cannot always be ob- 
tained. It should also be noted that according to German experience 
the actual damage inflicted by artillery and air bombardment on 
enemy positions in the woods is not as great as the psychological effect 
on enemy personnel. Dropping incendiary bombs on identified or 
suspected centers of resistance may facilitate the mission of the at- 



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tacking infantry. Because of the danger to friendly troops from 
resulting forest fires, the wind direction must be carefully observed. 
Since all traffic is of necessity channelized, harassing fire on bivouac 
areas, frequently used roads, and defilades has a considerable effect 
on the enemy's dispositions. 

If the enemy has established himself in a continuous line through 
a wooded and swampy area, each individual strong point must be 
reduced separately, either by envelopment or by frontal attacks. 

For any advance in this type of terrain squad columns are better 
suited than skirmish lines. Also, the troops must not be permitted to 
bunch up in the immediate vicinity of roads and trails, where they 
are more likely to encounter strong enemy ambush parties. 

Local reserves are held close by. They are immediately used to 
exploit any break in the enemy line or to restore the situation in case 
of unexpected reverses. Larger reserves follow at the usual distance. 
Prior to an attack, artillery observers should be attached not only to 
forward elements but also to the reserves, because under conditions 
peculiar to forests and swamps it may not be possible to do so later on. 

Enemy counterattacks or flare-ups of enemy resistance behind the 
front must be expected at all times. Particularly in such situations 
is it the foremost duty of junior and noncommissioned officers to 
maintain strict control within their sectors, since the means available 
in the field cannot assure the clear identification of front lines in that 
type of terrain. 

The terrain features usually designated as objectives in swamp 
fighting are stretches of road over high ground, railroad embank- 
ments, dikes, or islands in the swamps. Whereas the protection and 
support of heavy weapons and low-flying aircraft are here more 
easily obtained, the attacking infantry finds its greatest difficulties 
in approaching such objectives over the surrounding swampy and 
open areas. Even without effective enemy interference the infantry 
may have to resort to various expedients in order to accomplish its 
mission over soft ground. On many occasions the Germans used 
so-called swamp bridges for closing in on the enemy. They were con- 
structed in the rear areas and brought forward in sections under the 
cover of fire. Swamps that were not too soft often could be crossed 
with the aid of planks or fascines. In overgrown swamp areas where 
the surface vegetation was densely intertwined and formed small, 
firm islands, it usually was sufficient to take along duckboards and 
snowshoes. Furthermore, some of the brush was cut down and used 
to cover the soft ground between these islands. 




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The vast forest and Swamp regions of European Russia offer little 
opportunity for the employment of airborne forces. Small paratroop 
units might perhaps be dropped over clearings or some of the few 
open stretches of firm ground, but even then it is imperative that 
these airborne units operate in close coordination with forward 
elements because they will not be able to hold out on their own behind 
the enemy lines for any length of time. 

In the Russian forests and swamps even the successful break- 
through of an enemy position usually did not mean that the struggle 
for that position was over. Only on rare occasions did the enemy 
withdraw his forces completely from such areas. As a rule he re- 
established himself quickly and forced the attacker to dislodge him 
again from his new hide-outs and strong points. Even a victorious 
force must therefore take full precautions in the form of reconnais- 
sance and security measures and continue to patrol the area for dis- 
persed enemy units. For days and even for weeks remnants of Russian 
units and individual Red soldiers held out behind the German lines in 
completely hopeless situations, harassing and disrupting German rear 
communications. 




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SECTION VII 
DEFENSE 



In wooded and swampy areas, where the attacker is usually less 
familiar with the terrain, the defending force will make every effort 
to increase this natural element of uncertaint} 7 and to keep the enemy 
in the dark about the situation. This may be accomplished by outpost 
action, raids and ambushes, aggressive patrol activity, effective camou- 
flage, mines and booby traps planted on the enemy's natural avenues 
of approach, and the construction of tank traps. 

In forests of moderate depth the location of the main line of re- 
sistance will depend upon the possibilities of observation available to 
the supporting artillery. The edge of the forest must be avoided 
because it serves as a reference for hostile artillery observation. Even 
if the defender withdraws into the forest for only a short distance, 
he will hardly eliminate this disadvantage. Therefore, the most 
advanced defenses are preferably located either far outside or at 
a safe distance inside the woods. In the latter case, combat out- 
posts must be placed at the edge of the forest where some rifles and 
automatic weapons can be very effectively employed from trees. 

Positions located outside the woods have the advantage of better 
command and control facilities and are also more easily provided 
with effective fire support. Their main disadvantage lies in the diffi- 
culty of obtaining proper cover and concealment. 

In large forest areas the main line of resistance runs across woods 
and swamps far from the edge of the forest. It is irregular in trace 
and well concealed from ground and air observation. Many prin- 
ciples otherwise applied to the defense, such as the use of flanking 
fire and the need for good artillery observation, are of secondary im- 
portance here. The primary requirement is to keep the attacker 
from discovering whether he has actually hit the main line of re- 
sistance, an outpost line, or a strong point, or what relation the 
resistance encountered locally may have to the general plan of defense. 

It was one of the characteristics of combat in Eussian forest regions 
that, upon transition from mobile to static warfare, defense posi- 
tions established during an engagement did not form a continuous 
line. Furthermore, lakes and moors, impenetrable stretches of forest 
wilderness, and other natural obstacles in many places prevented 
the usual close contact between the opposing forces. 



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In the forest an effective battle position capable of meeting any 
form of attack should be a fortified zone comprising all types of 
defensive installations. Its main strength lies in a well-prepared 
fire plan for all weapons and in the extensive but inconspicuous use 
of tactical wire and mines in the outpost area. The Russians pre- 
ferred mass employment of mines ahead of their main line of resistance 
and planted antipersonnel, antitank, and wooden mines in their main 
battle area. 

A cleverly devised system of obstacles, in addition to holding up 
the enemy, should also have the effect of leading him into false di- 
rections and of exposing the attacking troops to flanking fire. All 
obstacles must be in sight of well-concealed outguards or sniper 
positions. Abatis may increase the value of obstacles but should not 
be permitted to obstruct the field of fire. Dug-in tanks may be used to 
form key points of the defense. In many situations decisive results 
can be obtained by weapons which hold their fire until the last moment 
and then hit the enemy with devastating effect. All these defensive 
measures call for time-consuming preparations made in conformity 
with a carefully devised plan and executed in proper order of pri- 
ority. The location of mines must be entered on maps to prevent 
accidents to friendly troops. 

Obviously, the greatest possible concentration of artillery should 
be used to meet an attack. But the number and employment of artil- 
lery units will depend chiefly on the nature of the terrain. Further- 
more, every battery position must be organized as a strong point 
capable of all around defense. 

Numerous small reserve units are placed throughout and closely 
behind the main battle position to repulse by prompt local counter- 
thrusts any hostile forces that may succeed in passing through the 
defensive line. Individual tanks are of great value for that purpose 
if the possibilities for their commitment have been carefully recon- 
noitered and prepared. Not too much reliance, however, should be 
placed on organized counterattacks. German experience has shown 
that they are never executed in time. 

The question whether a position is safe from armored attack re- 
quires careful examination. This can never be determined on the 
basis of map information alone but must be thoroughly checked by 
ground reconnaissance. The Russian proved to be a past master of 
infiltration over the most difficult type of terrain and was capable of 
stubbornly pursuing his objective under almost incredibly adverse 
conditions. 




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27 



Clearing of fire lanes is usually a difficult task and may involve the 
risk of disclosing the location of positions. In many cases, the careful 
removal of underbrush will suffice to assure defensive fires at effective 
range. For this purpose large clearings, often the result of forest 
fires, should be integrated into the defensive system. Large open areas 
behind the front, which might be used by the enemy for the landing of 
airborne troops, should be carefully guarded and adequately protected. 

The efficient exercise of command in a defensive situation, as in 
the offense, requires the establishment and maintenance of a well- 
functioning messenger and signal communication system. In an area 
of forests and swamps not much can be expected for this purpose 
from aircraft alone. In addition to radio the most primitive means 
of sending messages, such as runners, mounted messengers, and visual 
signals, might prove to be the most reliable. Listening-in stations for 
the purpose of intercepting enemy wire communications are more 
easily established in forests than in open terrain. With adequate con- 
cealment provided by dense vegetation, it is often possible to place 
ground rods close to the enemy and, under particularly favorable 
conditions, even behind the enemy lines. Deeply rooted, hardwood 
trees in wet ground often can be used to pick up currents from enemy 
ground return circuits. 

In heavily forested mountains the main defensive effort is directed 
toward the blocking of passes and roads. The selection of defensive 
positions should be made on the basis of a thorough terrain recon- 
naissance, and special consideration should be given to the danger of 
being outflanked by the enemy. Particularly in dense woods, this 
possibility is all too frequently overlooked. Obstacles can be con- 
structed quickly with the use of tactical wire, mines, and felled trees. 
They are of value only if they can be covered by fire to hinder their 
removal by the enemy. 

Lateral communications behind the front must be reconnoitered and 
improved to permit the shifting of counterattacking forces and other 
reserves at any time even through dense and pathless woods. When 
corduroy roads are constructed for that purpose, the fact should not 
be overlooked that through continuous use they will gradually sink 
into the swamp. 

Should the enemy succeed in penetrating a position in forests and 
swamps, those units that have not been dislodged must protect their 
flanks and stand their ground. Individual strong points must pro- 
vide for all around defense and hold out until counterattacks by re- 
serves have restored the situation. On principle, groups of buildings 



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present in the area should be organized into strong points. The 
Germans found that Russian blockhouses, usually of very low con- 
struction, were well-suited for that purpose. As a rule, these buildings 
commanded the few routes of communication and had facilities for 
drinking water. 

In swamps and marshes the defending force clings to islands, 
dunes, farm houses, clumps of trees, and any natural elevations in the 
terrain. Digging-in is frequently impossible because of the high 
ground-water level. In areas of this type a small but well-trained 
nnit, familiar with the terrain and determined to take every possible 
advantage of impassable stretches, ponds, fallen trees, or peat pits, 
is often able to delay a far superior enemy for a long time. This was 
amply demonstrated by the effective resistance of the Finnish Army 
against the onslaught of the many times superior Russian forces 
during the winter campaign of 1941. 

A system of defenses in the swamp may also include artificial 
islands, such as anchored rafts, stacks of wooden planks, or peat 
piles, provided they are adequately camouflaged. In the lagoons and 
reed flats of the Taman Peninsula, which separates the Black Sea 
from the Sea of Azov, German and Russian lines faced each other for 
weeks with observation and fields of fire reduced to very short dis- 
tances. Their positions were mainly artificial islands constructed of 
reeds and logs and connected by narrow channels. In such areas, 
where the nature of the terrain severely restricted the usefulness of 
all types of vehicles including tractors, the problem of supplying the 
German front-line troops could only be solved with the aid of various 
expedients. All vehicles and self-propelled guns carried short fascine 
mats about 4 feet wider than their tracks. In most instances, however, 
supplies were moved by pack animals, pack bearer columns, on swamp 
sleds, or even in improvised boats; sometimes supply operations on 
the ground had to be supplemented by air drops. 




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SECTION VIII 



RETROGRADE MOVEMENTS 



In retrograde movements through forests and swamps there is 
always the danger that the enemy, by concentrating against a few 
selected places, might break through or overtake the withdrawing 
force. The defender who wants to break contact with the enemy and 
withdraw his troops takes advantage of the vastness of woods and 
swamps to obscure the movement of the main body, to cause successive 
delays to the pursuing forces, and inflict the greatest possible losses 
on them. For this purpose covering forces must maintain contact 
with the enemy and prevent him from conducting a rapid pursuit. 
All elements that are no longer needed for actual combat, especially 
supply trains and units of limited mobility, must be withdrawn at 
an early stage, at the cost of whatever comforts these units normally 
provide to the troops. 

Especially at night and during the extended periods of morning 
and evening fog that are characteristic of damp forests and swamps, 
the evacuation of a position cannot be observed from the air or ground. 
Information on such a withdrawal can be obtained only through the 
continuous activity of combat patrols and from the statements of 
captured enemy personnel. Units engaged in rapid pursuit, on the 
other hand, must not permit themselves to be lured into a trap, which 
the enemy had ample opportunity to prepare, and thus be cut off 
entirely from their main force. 

In the execution of German retrograde movements in Russian 
forests, proper timing was of paramount importance. As a rule, a 
body of troops was not withdrawn alone but in connection with similar 
movements on adjacent fronts. Higher headquarters would prescribe 
the time for the beginning and completion of the movement and desig- 
nate intermediate lines of resistance as well as the ultimate defense 
positions. Pertinent orders were issued as early as possible to lower 
echelon commanders who then proceeded to make the necessary prep- 
arations for the withdrawal. 

Subordinate unit commanders were first briefed about the mission, 
the disposition of forces, and the time available for the entire oper- 
ation. Unit boundaries were announced in accordance with the exist- 
ing road net. Successive lines of resistance based on natural compart- 



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ments in the woods and swamps were designated on the map. The 
requirement that the enemy, after taking one line of resistance, should 
be forced to displace his artillery before attacking the next line deter- 
mined the proper distance between successive lines. 

Construction units were attached to the forward elements of the 
command according to the importance of their tactical missions. The 
Germans did not find it advisable to have higher headquarters direct 
the fortification of lines, much as it may seem desirable to take this 
burden from subordinate units who are still engaged in combat. 
Experience proved beyond doubt that a unit which planned and forti- 
fied its own line defended it with greater obstinacy. Therefore, the 
preparation of lines of resistance in a retrograde movement was the 
definite responsibility of lower echelons (division, brigade, combat 
team ) within their respective sectors. 

Whenever sufficient time and adequate construction forces are avail- 
able, the fortification of several successive lines of resistance should 
be started simultaneously. Viewed in the perspective of subsequent 
withdrawal actions, it is a tactical error to waste time and labor on 
the line of resistance closest to the enemy. As a result positions 
farther to the rear will be inadequately prepared or not prepared 
at all. Particularly in the closeness of woods and swamps a unit 
engaged in a retrograde movement for any length of time must be 
able to fall back on prepared positions. If such positions do not exist, 
the battle will assume the characteristics of a war of movement in 
which the advantage is clearly on the side of the stronger attacking 
force. 

When any retrograde movement is begun, demolition measures 
acquire increased importance. Such measures include burning or 
blowing up all bridges, demolishing roadbeds, destroying wells, flood- 
ing fords, and mining all narrow passages. A detailed demolition 
plan — depending on the time and the number of engineer troops avail- 
able — must be prepared for every sector. Much more effective than 
a large number of demolitions can be a few large scale demolitions 
at points of tactical importance where repair work is difficult and 
few bypasses, if any, exist. (Such places may later be turned into 
permanent obstacles to the enemy by subjecting his repair efforts to 
constant interference from the air.) All bypasses, of course, must 
be heavily mined. 

The Russians invariably planted time bombs and booby traps by 
the thousands in areas they were forced to evacuate. They also used 




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demolitions on the largest scale, often carried out in chains of great 
density, to tear up the few available hard-surfaced roads. 

Retrograde movements are not necessarily damaging to the morale 
of the soldier. If the commander succeeds in maintaining proper con- 
trol and achieves some striking successes in the conduct of the defense 
and if he does everything possible to care for the combat troops, their 
fighting spirit will remain unimpaired. 




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SECTION IX 
COMBAT UNDER SPECIAL CONDITIONS 



At night or in fog most of the difficulties normally encountered in 
forests and swamps are greatly intensified. In terrain of that type, 
therefore, large scale engagements at night should be avoided. The 
attack bogs down in most cases, friendly troops fire on each other, the 
danger of confusion and panic increases, and the result is failure. 

Activities during night and in fog will be restricted, as a rule, to 
reconnaissance and raids on well-defined, nearby objectives. Even 
after a successful break-through, a night advance through the woods 
will usually fail to produce the desired results. It is far better to let 
the troops rest, reorganize, and not continue the advance over wooded 
and swampy terrain until daybreak. 

If the situation is such that a tactical movement at night cannot be 
avoided or if conditions appear unusually favorable, only small task 
forces should carry out the advance during darkness, the remainder of 
the main force following at daybreak. It is clear that at night any 
movement through woods and swamps will take much longer than 
during the day. Bright moonlight may reduce many difficulties, but 
it will at the same time aid the enemy in his defense. 

Heavy frosts create favorable conditions for movements and offen- 
sive action in wet forests and particularly in swamps, because the 
hardened surface of the ground permits far better utilization of the 
terrain for tactical purposes. On the other hand, the rapid construc- 
tion of earthworks in deeply frozen soil of high moisture content will 
be extremely difficult. 

In cold weather the numerous lakes and ponds characteristic of 
northern European Russia, Karelia, and the Pripyat River basin lose 
their value as military obstacles. At the same time they offer excellent 
opportunities for the take-off of aircraft equipped with sledge runners. 

Snow, particularly large snowdrifts, will constitute a considerable 
hindrance to all movements. It may require extensive snow clearing 
operations and the construction of special winter roads. Further- 
more, a single heavy snowfall can neutralize the effect of all minefields 
in the area. But it will also create favorable conditions for the em- 
ployment of properly equipped ski troops, which are ideally suited for 



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the rapid execution of long-range reconnaissance and combat missions 
in forests and swamps. For such purposes a supply of sleds, protective 
winter clothing, snow goggles, and white camouflage suits must be held 
in readiness. In an area blanketed by snow effective concealment is 
very difficult to obtain. Footprints and ski tracks in the forest are 
easily detected by the enemy. 

Thaw and masses of melting snow will slow military operations in 
every type of terrain. In forests and swamps such conditions can have 
the effect of virtually immobilizing a substantial force for some time. 
All maneuver is limited to the movement of foot troops, cavalry, and 
the lighest type of vehicles. Small unit actions take the place of large 
scale operations. 

Twice each year, during the spring and fall muddy seasons, the ter- 
rain difficulties normally encountered in Russian forests and swamps 
become insurmountable, and large areas turn into formidable natural 
obstacles in the path of any military advance. Heavy floods are not 
infrequent and impose serious restrictions on all military operations. 
On such occasions the construction and maintenance of even the 
smallest airfield or landing strip will be a difficult problem. 

Entire sections of tall forests are sometimes knocked down overnight 
by violent windstorms, with the effect of blocking any passage. Also, 
the occurrence of extensive forest fires, often the result of long periods 
of drought, may force the military command to alter its plans of 
operation. 

In World War II the large forest and swamp regions of European 
Russia were the natural sanctuaries for growing partisan cells and 
provided ideal conditions for their purposes. Remnants of Red Army 
units, having escaped capture or annihilation in earlier engagements, 
were able to hide in almost inaccessible places and often formed the 
nuclei around which the partisans rallied. Bands of hardy individ- 
uals, well acquainted with the terrain and controlled by fanatical 
leaders, were combined into a substantial fighting organization and 
conducted ruthless guerrilla warfare against the German forces in 
the woods and swamps within and behind the combat zone. 

It should be pointed out, however, that while things are going well 
the effect of partisan activities on the course of major military oper- 
ations is not quite so serious as one might believe or anticipate on the 
basis of some reports. The danger grows considerably as soon as an 
advance is halted, the occupying forces suffer reverses, or the attackers 
fail to take effective countermeasures at an early stage. Then the 
partisans will rapidly increase their efforts against railroads, high- 




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GERMAN REPORT SERIES 



ways, and communication lines which, in woods and swamps, are as 
scarce as they are vulnerable. 

During World War II Russian partisan raids on German rear 
installations eventually assumed serious proportions and forced the 
occupation troops to resort to complicated protective measures and 
police actions. Toward the end of the war the vast Russian forest 
areas were becoming so insecure that a special warning radio channel 
had to be included in the signal operation instructions of higher head- 
quarters, to be used exclusively for urgent calls for assistance in case 
a unit or strong point was attacked or threatened by partisans. 

Ordinary combat units are not particularly well-suited for partisan 
warfare. As a rule, they lack the necessary flexibility and thus are 
not equal to the combat methods of a tough and ruthless enemy who is 
usually invisible, difficult to apprehend, and who attacks without warn- 
ing. Partisan combat calls for special units which are properly 
equipped and thoroughly trained in forest fighting. Local inhabitants 
may be used as valuable Teinforcements, but only if their loyalty has 
been assured beyond doubt. 

The key to success against partisans operating in wooded and 
swampy areas where ordinary means of intelligence fail is a smoothly 
functioning network of agents and informants. This alone will make 
it possible to identify and apprehend the more important leaders and 
to locate and seize main supply bases. Following the pattern of large- 
scale police raids, such antipartisan actions must converge on a defi- 
nite objective, achieve complete surprise, and be executed with the 
utmost thoroughness. Merely combing through a vast forest and 
swamp area for partisans or trying to seal it off will require the use 
of inordinately large forces and perhaps, may have the effect of 
pacifying the area temporarily. But the result in the long run will 
hardly justify the means employed. 

Under German occupation in World War II the villages in the 
Russian forests and swamps required constant surveillance. Their 
inhabitants — some voluntarily, some under pressure — cooperated with 
the partisans and gave them valuable support, not so much as com- 
batants but, at the least, as agents and informers. The use of force 
on the part of the German occupation troops (evacuation, taking of 
hostages, punitive expeditions) fell far short of producing the desired 
results. Since the Russian partisans hardly adhered to the rules of 
civilized warfare, such measures were most likely to provoke reprisals 
against German troops and against the friendly elements among the 
local population. 




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Railroads and highways leading through partisan-infested areas 
had to be protected in two ways. First, it was necessary to establish 
an effective network of strong points and fortified blockhouses, and 
then highly mobile patrols had to operate at irregular intervals along 
the threatened routes. Through many areas vehicles could only move 
in convoy and, on numerous occasions, the Germans had to use tanks, 
armored cars, or armored railroad trains to avoid heavy casualties 
from partisan attacks. 

As the war progressed, the Russians employed aircraft in the 
logistical support of their partisan forces. To an ever-increasing de- 
gree, leaders, specialists, weapons, rations, and equipment were flown 
to the partisan centers. Shielded by large forests and virtually im- 
passable swamp areas, such operations could hardly be prevented by 
German measures taken on the ground. Only through intensive aerial 
reconnaissance by day and night and by intercepting enemy radio 
communications was it at all possible for the Germans to identify the 
location of probable landing areas. Since even the Russian fliers had 
great difficulty in orienting themselves at night over large wooded 
areas, the Germans occasionally, through the use of deceptive devices, 
succeeded in inducing enemy pilots to drop their loads or land their 
planes on German-held air strips. 




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SECTION X 
CONCLUSIONS 



Combat in woods and swamps calls for great endurance and unusual 
resourcefulness. The German soldier fighting in Russia would have 
been in a much better position to stand the physical and psychological 
strain involved if he had been previously subjected to a thorough 
training program in that specialized type of warfare. The following 
is a list of subjects that should be included in such a program: 

1. Instruction in the peculiarities of forest and swamp fighting. 

a. Training in endurance of hardships imposed by unusual 

climatic conditions such as excessive humidity, subzero 
temperatures, extended periods of darkness, and violent 
storms. 

b. Effect of these peculiarities on the individual and the unit. 

2. Adjustment to the natural conditions encountered during a 

lengthy stay in wooded and swampy regions. 

a. Training the eye and ear for the sights and sounds char- 

acteristic of forests and swamps; recognition of tracks; 
woodcraft. 

b. Practice in pathfinding and orientation in densely over- 

grown terrain by day and night and during all seasons of 
the year, with or without the help of technical aids. 

c. Practice in moving swiftly and noiselessly through high 

forests, second growth, thickets, and morass, with particu- 
lar emphasis on continuous observation, effective use of 
cover and concealment, and constant readiness for action. 

3. Special instruction in close combat, using the most suitable 

weapons and techniques. 

a. Practice in rapid fire on close targets; training as tree- 

snipers, using telescopic sights. 

b. Preparing ambushes and organizing raids. 

c. Close cooperation of separate assault detachments with each 

other and with special antitank detachments. 

d. Construction and defense of block houses, strong points, and 

artificial islands in swamps. 

e. Ski training and the use of winter camouflage. 



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4. Preparation of earthworks and other defense installations. 

a. Use of whatever materials may be available such as felled 
trees, bushes, and reeds, with emphasis on proper conceal- 
ment to blend with the surrounding foliage. 

5. Construction of cover and foxholes in spite of high ground- 

water levels. 

5. Promotion of personal resourcefulness in case of separation 

from the unit. 

a. Construction of primitive shelters made of logs, brushwood, 

reed, or snow. 

b. Building of fires with wind protection for heating or 

cooking. 

o. Training in first aid in case of accidents or snakebite; pro- 
tection against vermin. 

d. Recognition of edible fruits, berries, or mushrooms. 

e. Observation from trees ; use of pole climbers. 

/. Instruction in the most important phrases and written char- 
acters of the enemy's language. 

Unit training also must be adjusted to the unusual requirements of 
combat in forests and swamps. Such a program, which would presup- 
pose the completion of individual training, would have to include the 
following : 

1. Exercises for troop commanders with the use of maps and 

sand tables for the solution of difficult problems of move- 
ment, particularly designed to promote efficiency in the 
assembly and movement of supplies as required for combat 
in wooded terrain. 

2. Command post exercises extending over several days, for the 

purpose of training staffs and communications personnel in 
guiding columns through woods and swamps with the aid of 
maps, compasses, stars, and other references. 

3. Exercises in the assembly and movement of entire units, in- 

cluding their rear echelons. 
a. Movement at night and under other conditions of poor 
visibility. 

6. Rapid construction of short stretches of corduroy road. 

c. Training entire march units in turning around on corduroy 

roads and on narrow, swampy forest trails. 

d. Preparation by each unit of all around defense at halts in 

forests and swamps. 




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e. Training suitable officers and noncommissioned officers as 
leaders of raiding parties. 

4. Thorough preparation of the various arms and services for 

their special missions in woods and swamps. 

a. Training engineers in repair of swampy roads and in the 

technique of removing mines and obstacles. 

b. Training tank commanders in the tactics and techniques of 

armored combat in woods. 

c. Training the artillery in observation and fire direction in 

densely overgrown terrain. 

d. Training service troops in the use of pack animals when 

moving through underbrush, ravines, and swampy areas. 

e. Training air observers in recognition and photographic 

reconnaissance over dense foresfs. 

5. Checking conditions and loading plans of all vehicles with a 

view toward their increased use. 

6. Training in service and maintenance of motor vehicles exposed 

to excessive wear and tear in difficult terrain. 

7. Special sanitation courses in the prevention of epidemics, 

frostbite, and diseases likely to occur as a result of living 
on damp ground. 

The experienced instructor will find many additional possibilities 
to prepare his unit technically and tactically for commitment in 
forests and swamps. (Under expert guidance even premilitary train- 
ing and Boy Scout exercises can bring out — in the form of play — many 
of the important attributes required for combat in wooded and 
swampy terrain.) Never should this type of training be permitted to 
lose its close relation to actual combat. The techniques of war are 
subject to change. Therefore, every new experience must become the 
knowledge of each person concerned, and that as rapidly as possible. 

During World War II, in adherence to this principle, it was part 
of the mission of the Training Branch of the German Army High 
Command to evaluate and disseminate new combat experiences in the 
shortest time possible. Combat-experienced officers and specialists 
were assigned as temporary observers to critical combat areas, and 
field commanders were required to submit brief reports on combat 
experiences after each major engagement. The knowledge gained 
in this manner was then made available to the service school, some- 
times even to the smallest units, in the form of circulars, training 
manuals, booklets, and pamphlets. 




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All these measures, however, will solve only part of the problem. 

To assure maximum performance, not only the instruction and train- 
ing of individuals and entire units but also clothing and rations, 
equipment of men and horses, weapons and vehicles must be adjusted 
according to climate and geography to the varying requirements of 
combat in forests and swamps. Still, even the best and most com- 
plete preparations will not rule out the possibility that some units 
or individuals might find themselves in situations in which all avail- 
able means are inadequate. In addition to thorough training and the 
best type of equipment, therefore, the soldier will need self-confidence 
and the ability to make use of improvisations and field expedients. 



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 



1986 O - 155-676 




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